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25 Mar 2003 : Column 192continued
New clause 9 proposes important safeguards that we support. The Bill contains many offences that are not offences in the United Kingdom. We have not discussed swindling: if I bought a car from the Minister for £1,000 knowing that I could sell it to the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) for £2,000 and then did so, would I be swindling the Minister? Perhaps I would, but that is the basis on which business is done throughout this country. That might seem to be a facile example, but it goes to the core of the entire definition. These offences are nebulous and uncertain. We believe that there should be safeguards, so we support the new clause.
Mr. Cameron: As I said in my intervention on the Minister, I support new clause 9 because it is very close to what the Home Affairs Committee recommended as a backstop power for the Home Secretary. One of the objections made to us was that it may be contrary to the European arrest warrant and therefore out of order. As a good European, will the hon. Gentleman reflect on that possibility and give his view?
Mr. Burnett: In Committee, the Minister cursed his misfortune in having drawn the two most Eurosceptical Liberal Democrat Members[Interruption.] I had better make that figure three, as my hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) is here, although he did not serve on the Committee. I believe in a Europe of nation statesa partnershipand I do not want to see foisted on our judicial system matters that are nebulous, uncertain and unfair to our own people or to people abroad.
I am delighted that we have the support of Conservative Members on new clause 19. The second head of injustice and oppression is not newit is taken directly from section 11(3)(b) of the Extradition Act 1989 and appeared in all earlier extradition legislation. The Bill has adopted the cause of injustice and oppression arising out of the passage of time, which I welcome, and has rejected the
I want to say a few words about the change in the threshold from 12 months to three years proposed in amendment No. 5. The European arrest warrant removes the dual criminality requirement for 32 offences where those are punishable in the issuing state by a custodial sentence or detention order for a maximum period of at least three years. Clause 62(3)(c) reduces that to 12 months. The Government have provided no justification for the inroad into the protection offered at EU level. We should maintain the threshold at three years, which would reduce the risk of warrants being issued other than for the most serious offences in respect of which it has been decided that dual criminality is not required.
On amendment No. 91, a person's extradition to a category 2 territory is barred if it appears that because the accusation against him is not made in good faith in the interests of justice it would, having regard to all the circumstances, be unjust or oppressive to return him. That is an important principle, and the House should consider it so.
Mr. Andrew Rosindell (Romford): I rise to support the amendments tabled by my right hon. and hon. Friends, but also to defend the liberties of my constituents, as all hon. Members must do. I am concerned about the Bill, and I want particularly to address the European arrest warrant.
Although I would be the last person to want criminals from other countries to remain in the United Kingdom, and would prefer them to be punished in their native lands, I am concerned that the Government are not responding through the Bill to a genuine problem but are pandering to the wishes of Europenot an uncommon occurrence with this Government, I am sad to say. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the Bill's provisions relating to the European arrest warrant. They would allow for British citizens to be extradited to other European Union nations for crimes that are not recognised in the United Kingdom, and with only limited UK legal hearings. It is particularly worrying that certain crimes in other European countriesespecially those relating to so-called xenophobia and racism, and to computer-related crimeare exceptionally difficult to define and pinpoint accurately.
Surely it is unthinkable that any British Government should lay British citizens open to arrest for breaking laws that are not clearly definable. Were this Bill to be passed, an Englishmanor, of course, a Scotsman or a
Mr. Rosindell: Of course I believe that any person in any country should obey the laws of that country. I believe most strongly of all, however, that no British citizen should be subjected to the laws of other countries while they are in this country. That is completely wrong.
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin), who, alongside the directors of the Democracy Movement and Liberty, presented a petition on this issue to Downing street in November. The Bill will achieve an increase in the bureaucracy involved in extradition, at the cost of proper checks. What it needs to do is to tackle the real criminals who are a serious danger to the British national interest and to catch and deal with terrorists while protecting the innocent from European pettiness.
The European arrest warrant represents an assault on civil liberties in the United Kingdom that will be potentially devastating for British people who fall victim unintentionally to committing ambiguous crimes abroad. It will open the floodgates for British citizens to suffer in foreign prisons and under foreign judicial systems that do not share our own standards and values. I urge hon. Members to reject it.
Mr. Cameron: It is with great pleasure that I follow my hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Mr. Rosindell), who has made a powerful case about the dangers of removing the protection of dual criminality. I rise to speak specifically in support of new clause 9, which would put into law the recommendation of the Home Affairs CommitteeI am pleased to see its Chairman in his placeto give a backstop power to the Home Secretary in cases in which extradition was being sought for something that was not a crime in this country.
The Minister asked, when I intervened on him, how the Home Secretary could be asked to designate a request as being "proper." That is the word in the new clause. I did not draft it, and I have to say that I prefer the Select Committee's carefully drafted recommendation about the backstop power. I will try to defend the proposal, however, and I want to make two points to the Minister. First, the Home Secretary has a role in extradition right now. He has to decide in many cases whether someone should be extradited, and whether it is proper to do so. All that we are saying is that, under the European arrest warrant, if a person were accused of something that was not a crime in this country, the Home Secretary should have a backstop power to say whether it was proper or not. Secondly, we are in new territory here. Never before have we given up the dual criminality protection, so why not give a backstop power to the Home Secretary?
I did not have the pleasure of serving on the Standing Committee for this Bill, but I know that the proponents of the European arrest warrant say that we must try to give them a good example of a case that would be affected in the way that I have described. Because we have the protection of dual criminality, I have to admit that it is difficult to point to a good case. Perhaps I can ask the Minister what he thinks of the point.
Other hon. Members have identified the problem of the very vague 32 categories, one of which is "racism and xenophobia". Not a lot of people know thisas Michael Caine might saybut in Finland, under the category of racism and xenophobia, warmongering is an offence. I shall share with the House what someone would have to do in Finland to be accused of warmongering. The Home Affairs Committee report states:
publicly disseminate statements or other propaganda intended to turn the public opinion in favour of the carrying out of offensives".